Can you discern a God-moment?Published 9:39pm Friday, September 2, 2011
God’s people are in the Promised Land, but they had not yet taken the Promised Land. It would be a military conquest, because those inhabiting the land are not going to want to give it up. Joshua has gone by himself near the Jericho wall, and he has probably been thinking about how impossible it will be to take the giants and the fortified cities. But something happens, in which God reassures Joshua that Israel’s army, plus God’s army form an unbeatable team.
“When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?” “Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the LORD’s army.” At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. (Joshua 5:13-15, New Living Translation)
From this little story, let’s discover four truths God teaches Joshua—and us—about Himself
“When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw … a man …” (Vs. 13) Sometimes God appears as a man. Bible experts say that the “Commander of the Lord’s army,” (Vs. 14) was most likely a preincarnate appearance of Jesus. Plenty of times in the Old Testament God the Son appeared as a man before he showed up in the flesh and blood body of Jesus.
Sometimes God appears as a man. Seem farfetched? How can we make application of that today? John helps us out as he’s preached a long sermon about loving each other. “Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other.” (1 John 4:11, NLT) And he follows that with a statement that surely seems out of place. “No one has ever seen God.” (1 John 4:12, NLT) What does not seeing God have to do with loving each other? John continues, “But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” (1 John 4:12, NLT)
God — Jesus— may never appear as a man again, but— if we have hearts of love for each other— then God can be seen in us. And sometimes we see the love of God, and the actions of God in others.
And there was that one time— that one really big time, when God appeared as a man. “He gave up his divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.” (Philippians 2:7, NLT) We weren’t fortunate to live during the time when we could lay eyes on God in the flesh. But… we are blessed in the greatest way because of what He did for us when he appeared as a man on this earth.
God revealed Himself in another way to Joshua. Joshua asked, “Are you friend or foe?” (Vs. 13) Peterson’s “Message” has the real question: “Whose side are you on—ours or our enemies’?” And notice the response, “Neither.” (Vs. 14) The Commander said that He wasn’t on anyone’s side. God doesn’t choose sides. Those who are God’s favorites— are His favorites not because He took their side, but… because they took His side. The question is not, “Is God on our side?” The question is, “Are we on God’s side?”
It’s easy to get the idea that God is on our side, isn’t it? He must be on my side — I go to church, tithe, haven’t killed anyone lately, don’t cuss too much, have a big black Bible on my coffee table. And isn’t it easy for churches— for denominations to get the idea that God is on our side? The truth is, God has blessed most all Christian, Bible-believing denominations and churches— but only when they have chosen to be on His side.
Later on Joshua would make being on God’s side a life rule. “But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15, NLT)
Our passage shows us another great attribute of God. He is the holy God. Wherever He is, and wherever He operates— is holy ground. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” (Vs. 15) During Old Testament days people showed respect and reverence by taking off their shoes— by not tracking dirt and mud into a holy place. Wherever and whenever God does a great work— it must be treated differently. It must be reverenced. It must not be treated flippantly or lightly.
I hope we are sensitive enough to the Holy Spirit of God to sense — to discern a God-thing, or a God-moment. God can enter our life — our world — at any time, on any occasion. And surely, when we are gathered together as God’s people— we should have remembrances of those special times God showed up.
A few years ago, we hosted the community Thanksgiving service. Rev. Doug Newton, from the Methodist church brought the message, and we had invited a black church to join us, and asked that their pastor give the closing prayer. He went to the pulpit, spoke of the beauty and size of our sanctuary, and how blessed his people were to be worshiping in our building. The reverend mentioned the hymn, “On Jordan’s Stormy Banks…” He took one look back at our pianist and she immediately started playing it, and he led the congregation in that hymn. That was the God-moment. Out of all that had been planned — this was the moment God was all over, and I felt like pulling off my shoes because I was on holy ground. When God shows up — when God does something— it’s no longer commonplace, it’s special, it’s set apart, and it’s holy.
Arnold Hendrix is pastor of First Baptist Church of Atmore.